Whether you’re just getting started or have been at it for a while, writes Inman contributor Luke Babich, you already know that finding potential clients is critical. Here are 13 tips to build and nurture your client base.

There’s no doubt about it: With interest rates rising, available stock still lagging behind demand, and the population moving, real estate has become more competitive in the past decade. 

There has never been a more expensive time to buy. Home prices have increased at a breakneck pace over the past three years: The median sale price of a U.S. home was up 32 percent in the first quarter of 2023 from the first quarter of 2020, per census data.

Increasing expenses and short inventory means fewer people can qualify, and fewer folks are motivated to jump into the market to purchase or sell a home. This means that you have to be on the offensive when it comes to prospecting for new business.

Whether you are just getting started or have been at it for a while, you already know that finding potential clients is critical. Here are 13 tips to build and nurture your client base.

1. Start with leads

If you are just getting your career off the ground, the simplest way to begin to build your client base is through purchasing leads from a lead generation company. These companies specialize in aggregating data provided by potential clients looking to buy or sell a home.

It may seem like “cheating” to buy leads, but that’s simply not the case. You aren’t skimming data from an unrelated industry. These leads have been gathered from people who have expressed interest in buying or selling a home and given permission to be contacted.

2. Use social media

Social media is where people start their search for a variety of services — and real estate is one of them. Depending on your target client, focus your efforts on platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook

Don’t be shy, either. Go beyond simple house listings and video tours — take social media as an opportunity to give potential clients a taste of who you are and what it might be like to work with you.

3. Don’t neglect your website

No matter how often skeptics say SEO is dead or websites don’t matter, consumers continue to foil their efforts and lean on websites to get their initial information about everything from restaurants to Realtors. Yours doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to have contact information, an attractive layout and a clear call to action.

4. Get out into the community

The best real estate agents know that community building is at the heart of their business. The best way to build your potential client community is to get out into it, meet the people you serve, and let them know you’re there to help. Attend or host things like local community events and chamber of commerce meetings. 

When 36 percent of homebuyers report they’re unhappy with their purchase experience, meeting people without a “hard sell” is critical. It lays a solid foundation of trust that you can build on over the years.

5. Partner with local businesses

Another way to build relationships is by partnering with other local businesses. Cultivating a network of local contractors, interior designers or financial advisers provides added value to clients. These partners may also send more business your way (and vice versa).

Local businesses are also invaluable when it comes time to provide resources to clients for closing. Keep a list of inspectors and closing attorneys in your back pocket, too.

6. Activate your sphere of influence

Your sphere of influence (SOI) includes people who already know and trust you. These are your family, friends and neighbors who have built relationships with you outside of your business.

Ask the people in your SOI to spread the word about your services. This might include sharing your posts on social media or sending your contact information to potential leads.

7. Educate clients

Free educational workshops or seminars on homebuying and selling or investment strategies are key to building trust among potential clients. It also establishes you as an expert in your field and helps you connect with new potential clients.

People appreciate getting free advice so they can make educated decisions about what is likely to be the largest purchase they will make in their lifetime. And they will recognize the value that you provided.

8. Automate your follow-up process

Although a personal touch is always best, sometimes a simple email acknowledgment is enough. Use automated tools to thank people for signing up for your email lists, or to reach out strategically. This is a good way to remind clients to add a review or testimonial, too.

9. Send out a monthly newsletter

Those community events and free educational seminars can help you build a contact list. Stay in touch with potential clients by creating a monthly email newsletter that offers market updates, home maintenance tips and community events. This keeps you top-of-mind when people on the list are ready to buy, sell or invest.

10. Stay in touch with past clients

The goal of newsletters and email lists is not to sell a client one house and then disappear. You are laying the groundwork for a relationship that lasts for years, through multiple moves or many investments.

Outside of your regular newsletter, stay in touch with past clients through handwritten thank-you notes, birthday greetings or occasional check-ins. These personal touches set you apart from a regular computer-generated email and can also spark referrals.

11. Ask for reviews

Many people underestimate the power of reviews and personal testimonies, but the verdict on these is clear. Client testimonials build trust and credibility in the community. They are a way to tell potential clients that their neighbors and friends have had good results when using your services. 

Testimonials belong on your website but don’t neglect other review sites such as Zillow, Yelp and Google. Because 41 percent of buyers begin their search online, you need to make sure your name pops up when they start looking. 

12. Reward referrals

Most satisfied clients are eager to provide referrals to friends and families, but for those who need a little incentive, consider offering a rewards program. Rewards are a way to say, “thank you,” but they also encourage former clients to share your contact information.

Rewards need not be extravagant. Consider offering discounts on your services or gift cards to local businesses (some of whom can be partners, too).

13. Don’t stop learning

The real estate market can be a volatile place. Education doesn’t end when you get your license, so take learning seriously, and stay on top of the latest market trends, laws, and regulations. When potential clients realize how educated and in-the-know you are, they will be more likely to trust your advice — and refer their friends. 

Building and nurturing a real estate client base requires a combination of personal connection, active community involvement, strategic marketing and consistent professional growth. It’s a strategy that pays off in loyal clients who tell their friends and stick with you for the long term.

Luke Babich is the CSO of Clever Real Estate in St. Louis. Connect with him on  Facebook or Twitter.

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